Ottawa tornado was unexpected, but not abnormal: Environment Canada – Ottawa Citizen

Ottawa tornado was unexpected, but not abnormal: Environment Canada - Ottawa Citizen
We just took cover: Orléans reeling after tornado tears through region
The tornado that blew through Ottawa’s east end Sunday night took both residents and expert weather watchers by surprise.

When Robert Kuhn, a severe weather meteorologist with Environment Canada, arrived at work Sunday evening, he looked back at the day’s weather data and saw nothing that would indicate an impending tornado.

At around, 6:35 p.m., a tornado was spotted near Saint-Pascal-Baylon, Ont. moving east at 40 km/h, with another viewer seeing a tornado off the Ottawa River. A second Environment Canada press release states that Ontario towns, Rockland, Clarence and Wendover were also being affected.

“It wasn’t a classic environment,” he said. It was warm but not too hot, and the wind was “nothing to write home about.”  Looking at the data, he might have thought strong thunderstorms, possibly approaching severe, and maybe some hail. “But I don’t have any indication at this point where – oh, I’ve got to go to a tornado warning or tornado watch now and see what happens.”

Ottawa Fire Services fire prevention and investigations officer Marc Messier lives in the area and told CTV News Channel, the tornado lasted for a long time and we were just hoping that everybody in the east was OK.

Sometimes tornadoes can appear almost out of the blue, Kuhn said, and that can be helped in part by wind conditions along the Ottawa River.

Firefighters at work clearing damaged branches on Singleton Way as a reported tornado touched down in the Orléans suburb of Ottawa on Sunday evening. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

Knowing my family is in the area strikes a few nerves, he admitted. Everyone seemed to be distraught with the amount of damage but there was a sigh of relief that it couldve been a lot worse.

Fire fighters at work clearing damaged branches on Singleton Way as a reported tornado touched down in the Orléans suburb of Ottawa on Sunday evening. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

We still have Septembers incident in our minds, Messier said. This isnt something we see often in the Ottawa area and unfortunately it seems to be something becoming more frequent.

Fire fighters at work clearing damaged branches on Singleton Way as a reported tornado touched down in the Orléans suburb of Ottawa on Sunday evening. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

The wind had torn off roofs and uprooted trees in Ottawas east end with strewn debris forcing the closure of several streets, including a major highway. But by 9 p.m., they were all reopened.

Dana Miller surveys damage in her backyard as a reported tornado touched down in the Orléans suburb of Ottawa on Sunday evening. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

A tree on Burnt Ember Crescent in Orléans following a tornado that hit the area on Sunday, June 2, 2019. Elizabeth Payne/Postmedia.   /jpg

Tornado warnings are being issued for western Quebec including Gatineau, as well Ontario towns Prescott and Russell, according to Environment Canada. (Mike Lagace) ‏

Ottawa Fire Services crew members start working on removing fallen tree branches at a home on Singleton Way in Orléans after a tornado hit the area on Sunday evening   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

David Redmond surveys the damage of his home while his son and friends install tarps over a hole in the roof of a home on Singleton Way as a reported tornado touched down in the Orléans suburb of Ottawa on Sunday evening. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

Tornado warnings have been lifted for parts of Quebec including Gatineau, as well Ontario towns Prescott and Russell, according to Environment Canada.

David Redmond suffered a hole in the roof of his home on Singleton Way as a reported tornado touched down in the Orléans suburb of Ottawa on Sunday evening. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

At 6:07pm EDT a confirmed tornado was east of Gatineau moving east. Tornado Warning place. TAKE COVER NOW! #ONstorm

One of the homes on Singleton Way that suffered damage as a reported tornado touched down in the Orléans suburb of Ottawa on Sunday evening. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

Despite the damage to buildings, Ottawa police said there are "there are no known injuries at this time.

Dana Miller surveys damage in her backyard as a reported tornado touched down in the Orléans suburb of Ottawa on Sunday evening. Wayne Cuddington / Postmedia   Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

The City is aware there has been a weather incident in the east end. We are currently investigating on-site

And so, when a report came in around 5:55 p.m. that a tornado was sighted about 10 kilometres southeast of the Gatineau airport, it was only at that point the Environment Canada officials issued a tornado warning for Gatineau.

More viewer video of what may have been a tornado touching down in East Ottawa pic.twitter.com/aXyQz0T4ci

At approximately the same time, said Kuhn, the tornado had already crossed the Ottawa River over Petrie Island, tracked along Highway 174, and was in the midst, or had possibly just finished, doing its damage in east Ottawa.

No tornado warning went out for Ottawa, a fact many took to social media to decry. “The thing would have been already gone,” said Kuhn.

@environmentca why did the WeatherCan app, when set for Ottawa Gatineau weather, not display tonights tornado warning?

A warning went out shortly after 6 p.m. for Prescott and Russell, but the only damage appeared to be in east Ottawa.

Concerns were also aired by people who said they did not receive the emergency alerts on their mobile devices. According to Pelmorex, the company that operates the technical backbone of the Alert Ready System, “alert messages were transmitted to broadcasters and wireless service providers.” Martin Bélanger, the company’s director of public alerting, said that to receive alert messages, wireless devices must be connected to an LTE cellular network at the time the alert is issued or active and equipped with the latest version of its operating software.

At this preliminary stage of the investigation – officials will be back out Monday – Kuhn said the tornado has been classified as an EF-1. That means winds of at least 135 kilometres-an-hour.

Everyone I spoke to in Chatelaine Village (and I) didnt get an alert until 10 minutes after the tornado hit… and even then it was for Gatineau

It’s also believed that the tornado could have been on the ground for as long as 30 minutes. This is unusual, but not abnormal, Kuhn said. Typically, EF-1s will touch ground for about a minute, then dissipate. “But as long as the thunderstorm has fuel to keep going … they can last for a while.”

That Ottawa has experienced yet another visible tornadic event within a year also prompts talk of extreme weather and its connection to climate change. But according to Kuhn, it’s not at all unusual to see a tornado like Sunday’s in this area at this time of year.

“Once or two events doesn’t mean that it’s from climate change,” said Kuhn. Though he did add “if our climate keeps warming, then perhaps the opportunity for these kind of events will be more frequent over a longer season.”

“The other thing we have to be aware of as well is today there’s so many more smartphones, cameras, people. If it’s in a populated area, if the storm gets pretty nasty, the chance of seeing a tornado is increased … there’s a lot of eyes out there.”

Residents in Ottawa's east end neighbourhood of Orléans are assessing the damage from a major storm Sunday evening that saw a tornado rip through the region.

A single tornado was spotted near the Gatineau airport, just on the other side of the Ottawa River, at 5:55 p.m., Environment Canada said.

The weather agency later said around 8 p.m. that a possible tornado had also been spotted near L'Orignal, Ont., moving east at about 30 kilometres per hour.

"But regarding its intensity, its precise track, all these different details, we'll have to be on the ground. And these [questions] will be answered tomorrow morning."

The weather agency had placed the city of Gatineau, as well the Papineau, Que., area to the northwest and the municipality of Prescott-Russell, Ont., to the east under a tornado warning as the tornado was moving along the Ottawa River.

All three warnings have now been lifted, although severe thunderstorm warnings remain in place in certain parts of the region.

In Ottawa's Orléans neighbourhood, trees were uprooted and several homes were damaged by the storm, fire officials said.

Greg Laidlaw said he was downstairs in his Balsam Drive home when he suddenly heard the wind pick up.

"We just took cover," he said. "It was kind of scary but it wasn't that bad. I'm sure people got hit worse."

They said when they assessed the damage afterward, they found they had no structural damage to their home.

"The trees started to bend and the wind howled," David Robb said. "I didn't know if it was a down draft … or a tornado, but it sure wreaked its vengeance on us in a short period of time."

Ottawa paramedics said they handled a single "minor" call about a branch that fell on a resident's head while they were cleaning up debris.

While the tornado's precise track is still being investigated, many Orléans residents reported seeing it touch down, said ​​​​​​Orléans Coun. Matthew Luloff.

Luloff told CBC Ottawa that he'd seen extensive damage to trees and property, particularly in parts of the ward that sit along the Ottawa River. 

However, the damage didn't appear as severe as what happened during the Sept. 2018 tornado strikes, Luloff said.

Highway 174 and J'eanne D'Arc Boulevard had both been closed during the worst of the storm, but they have since reopened.

The City of Ottawa said there were also reports of power outages and that first responders were performing door-to-door checks in the area.

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